Raven's Song is a gripping, suspenseful novella set between the first and second novels of my Ravensblood series. It was part of an Amazon bestselling multi-author anthology which is no longer available. I've recently released it as a stand-alone available on Amazon, but first try a sample below!
Raven’s fingers on the keys found
all the right notes, but still the music was wrong. Mechanical. Because he was
still thinking of each note, instead of the flow of the piece.
Damn. He took his hands from the keys, forced
a deep breath. Bach’s thirteenth invention was a tricky little beast—the man
had written it to put his children through their paces, after all, but he had
written it for his children. Raven could play the piece, flawlessly and
with feeling, and without conscious thought, when he was in General Academy.
steady click-click of the metronome he had turned to in his desperation mocked
and it will go better.
What did it matter, if it took him a while to get his playing back to where it
once had been? He had no aspirations of playing professionally, nor even of
performing. He played to amuse himself; what matter if the notes didn’t quite
add up to the music?
he used to be good, damn it. And all the lost years ate at him.
the same as the magic. You know what you’re doing. Just let your fingers find
the notes, and let the music take you.
switched off the metronome, put his hands to the keys and tried again. Eyes
half-closed, he breathed with the piece, and at last found the music in the
notes. Finally, the tune took over, came alive, moved like the breath of the
world. His soul swelled in his chest.
message crystal flashed.
missed a note and the flow of the music collapsed. Damn.
She was out on a case. Had something happened?
leapt from the piano bench, crossed the room in three long strides, and tapped
the crystal to open communication. “This is Raven.”
Ravenscroft, this is Greg Davison. One of Cassandra’s colleagues.”
something happened to Cassandra?” Raven cut in.
that I heard of, no.” The voice sounded vaguely puzzled by the question.
Clearly the man hadn’t thought through the implications of a red-flashing
message crystal and a call from the work associates of one’s lover. “Maybe
Cassandra mentioned me?” the voice asked hopefully.
that I recall, no.” This had better be important. Raven made his voice
deliberately cold and intimidating.
lover might be a GII agent, but that didn’t mean he felt particularly friendly
to Guardians in general. Not after days he'd spent in interrogation before the
Council finally decided to make good on the pardon they’d promised. Keeping
that promise had nearly cost him his life.
colleagues were nothing more than names on files that she brought home, at
first surreptitiously and then with increasing openness, when the other agents
asked her to get his take on some crime of magic that had them stumped. His lip
curled. They might not trust him, but they were certainly willing to use his
yes, well, I’m a colleague of Cassandra’s,” the stranger said again.
Frightened of the fearsome dark mage? He frowned. No, no fear in Davison’s
voice. Discomfort, though.
there’s this case I’m working on. I admit I’ve hit a dead end on it.”
This was his idea of
'urgent'? His frown deepened to a scowl. If the Guardians had wanted his
services on a full-time basis, they had had their chance years ago. “Send the
file home with Cassandra when she gets back. If it interests me, I’ll give you
my thoughts.” He reached to terminate the communication.
can’t wait until Cass gets back. Look, can you just meet me in my office?”
bells went off. He wouldn’t walk into a building full of Guardians, not even
for Cassandra. “No.” The word came out flat and cold. "If it can’t wait,
then you’ll just have to figure out how to do your job without me. GII muddled
along just fine without me in the years I was in William’s service.”
The stark reminder of who and what he had been should send the stranger
skittering away like a rabbit beneath a hawk’s shadow. Smirking, he waited for
the message crystal to go dark so he could get back to Bach's Inventions.
you." The voice was exasperated now. "A woman’s life is at stake! Or
are you still enough of a dark mage that that doesn’t matter to you?”
almost snorted. Oh, yes, insults were going to make him that much more inclined
to work with this Guardian. He reached out to tap the crystal and break the
sorry.” The voice was softer, abashed. “I shouldn’t have said that.” The sound
of a deep breath. “Look, I can understand how a single Mundane opera star
wouldn’t seem particularly important—”
cut him off. “Who?”
had read something about a stalker, hadn’t paid much attention to the
particulars. He’d dismissed it as an overly-zealous fan, but if GII had gotten
involved. . .
Love. I’m sure you’ve probably never heard of her—”
won’t come in to GII.” For a moment, he considered testing Davison’s resolve by
suggesting that they meet at one of the posh uptown restaurants that would
strain a Guardian’s paycheck, but Cassandra would not be amused if she heard
about it. “There is a pub on the corner of Northwest Glisan and Twenty-first.
The Blue Moon. Do you know it?”
well enough to teleport, but I can borrow my wife’s car.”
wondered if Davison was in a mixed marriage. Few mages owned automobiles. For
that matter, few even learned to drive. Did Davison even have a license?
was the Guardian’s problem. “Can you be there in an hour?” Raven asked.
I think. Traffic should have cleared by now.”
had dragged Raven to the Blue Moon often enough that he could teleport to the
sidewalk outside without difficulty. That gave him nearly an hour before he had
to leave. He didn’t think his mind was going to settle back into the Bach.
turned on the stereo—one of the few pieces of Mundane technology he had any use
for—and traced a finger along the backs of his well-ordered CDs until he found
one featuring Madeline’s arias, and let himself be transported by her voice
until it was time to leave.
late in winter, the sky was full dark by this time of the evening. It was a
weeknight, and so the sidewalks held few shoppers when he faded back into being
in front of the pub and stepped through the glass door of the Blue Moon. Dark
wood made the interior rather more elegant than most pubs. Soft jazz played on
the sound system. Not the classical music he preferred, but several steps above
the jarring noise of modern pop that blared in so many places. The pool tables
stood empty, but the fire in the central brazier had been lit long enough to
have built to a healthy blaze.
inquiry with the hostess confirmed that no one had asked for him yet. He
selected a table in a corner with the view of the door and draped his long,
black wool coat over the back of the seat. When the waiter came, a
neatly-dressed and pleasant-faced young man saved from blandness by the emerald
stud in one ear, Raven asked for a glass of Fireside port. He’d considered the
house brandy, but he’d do better to keep his wits about him when dealing with
GII. While he had no reason to expect trouble—his pardon was ironclad and he
had done nothing since William’s fall to give further cause for arrest—he had
little trust for Guardians, local or GII.
had finished his port and was contemplating a second glass when the opening of
the door caught his attention. For a moment, his breath caught. Blond hair, pale
coloring…He relaxed and laughed silently at himself. Not William, after all.
Not William, William was dead, had to be dead, even if they had never found the
body. This stranger with the open face and the pleasant smile was a far cry
from William. The hostess pointed him to Raven’s table, and his smile broadened
as he thanked her with a slight bow.
for the stranger had to be Davison, then turned and approached Raven’s table.
His gaze locked with Raven’s and his face hardened, his mouth thinning into a
resolute, stiff line. All of Raven’s sense that he might actually like this
Guardian fled. Clearly, to Davison, he was still a dark mage. No matter that
Davison had asked for this meeting. No matter that he had asked for Raven’s
help, that Raven had come when he could be enjoying a nice, quiet evening with
Ravenscroft?" He stopped at the table. "I’m Greg Davison with GII.”
rose to his feet and deliberately held out his hand. Davison waited a long
moment before taking it. Raven gave him an ironic smile, making it clear he
recognized Davison’s distaste and found it amusing.
sit.” Raven gestured at the table's empty seat.
did so, stiffness in his every motion.
waiter came over to their table immediately; either things were really that
slow or he remembered that Raven tipped generously. People had no problems
dealing with a Ravenscroft when it came to cold commerce. Gods bless greed. He
went ahead and ordered a second glass of the port. Davison, after glancing at
the menu, ordered White Rabbit, the house white wine.
this be on one check or two, gentlemen?” the waiter asked.
take care of it,” Raven said.
checks, please,” Davison said firmly.
waiter looked from one to the other.
shrugged. “Separate checks, then.” He turned his eyes on Davison. “You asked
for my help.”
to see the man across from him squirm.
Love is being stalked,” Davison said. “We know the stalker is from the Art
of the incidents could only have been carried out by a mage. Words were burned
into her bedroom wall while she was out. Forensics confirmed it could only have
unless he has a mage helping him—”
since the profile says he’s almost certainly a loner.”
inclined his head,. “So firewriting says he has at least a final-year General
Academy level of training, or its equivalent. Magical signature?”
match any of the staff. When we could, we brought in the Guardians that have
worked on cases involving known sexual predators, but none of them recognized
the signature. The Mundanes were out with their fingerprint kits, but all the
prints they found matched someone with a valid reason to be there.” He shook
his head. “We had to get prints from quite a few handsome young men to
eliminate them from the roster of potential suspects. Opera divas must live
quite the life.”
Love is both lovely and talented,” Raven said stiffly. “Why shouldn’t she entertain
her male admirers if she chooses?”
took a sip of his wine. “I suppose. Outside my experience. I’m more a
marriage-and-family sort of man.”
all you know is that the stalker is a mage with at least the talent of a
last-year General Academy student. Or a younger prodigy. I could firewrite by
the middle of my second year.”
it his imagination, or did Davison flinch just a bit at the reminder of who he
was dealing with? Raven smiled.
also know that he’s smart enough to wear gloves. Narrows the field more than
you might think.” Davison said. “There’s also some indication that he’s a bit
more than the average mage.”
the fact that he seems perfectly capable of running circles around you?” Raven
couldn’t resist the barb.
that, yes,” Davison answered mildly, though anger flashed in his eyes. “The
magical signature seems strange. Muddled.”
educated guess based on context, though he wasn’t ready to admit as much. Raven
hadn’t known that such a magic existed, but new spells and charms were being
created every year. While he’d learned things from both William and the
Ravenscroft journal that would leave this Guardian stunned as well as appalled,
some of the newer magics, especially those confidential or classified, would
have gone under his radar. Still, the Ravensblood had been able to hide his
signature entirely, so logically, other magic might have been developed that at
least obscured the magical signature.
shrugged. “Not sure. Quite probably. If it’s intentional, and not some weird
anomaly of this man’s magic, it does narrow the field quite a bit.”
leaned forward. “You said ‘this man’. You have some evidence of gender?”
probability. Had to choose a pronoun, and ‘it’ wouldn’t be very professional.”
He bared his teeth in a grin. “No matter how tempting, or otherwise a propos.”
raised his glass in a toast of agreement before taking a sip of port.
assuming intention for the moment,” Davison continued. “That would leave us
with certain high-level GII agents in undercover and counter-espionage, and
quite probably a handful of dark mages.”
dark mages in particular? The magic doesn’t seem inherently evil.”
else would want to obscure what they do with magic?”
can think of a few off the top of my head,” Raven said. “From a wife planning a
surprise birthday party for her husband to pranking schoolchildren. Or your
stalker, who has been terrorizing a lovely and talented woman using, so far as
you have told me to this point, no magic that has been specifically classified
frowned in disapproval. “So you believe that no magic is inherently dark?
Nothing should be banned outright? Do you believe that even death magic has its
closed his eyes briefly. A knife in his hand, a fountain of blood, the rush
of death feeding his power…Raven’s stomach lurched. Even Cassandra had
accepted that he had no choice, had forgiven him her cousin’s death. And still
he had nightmares about Andy Burns’s blood on his hands. “If you brought me
down here to debate the question of good and evil as it relates to various
types of magic, I have more interesting problems awaiting me at home.” Raven
gathered up his coat and stood, looking around for the waiter so he could
signal for the check.
changed your mind about helping when I named the woman who was being stalked,”
Davison said, desperation in his voice. “Whatever she is to you, she is in
closed his eyes, seeing in his memory a dark-haired woman in the spotlight of
an opera stage and a voice that moved even the most jaded to tears.
sat back down. “So tell me the facts of the case then, and stop wasting my
to Ms. Love, it started about a year ago,” Davison said. “Just letters, at
first. She dismissed it as just some avid fan with an over-active imagination.”
there a name signed to the letters?”
signed them as ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ ”
Raven said drily. “I take it that it went beyond letters, or GII would not be
Day last year, she came home to find rose petals scattered on her balcony.
Spring Equinox it was a replica stone age fertility symbol in her foyer. A basket
of candy for Eoster with an article on the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate
that had been clipped out of a news magazine.”
she have a security system?” Raven asked.
to body heat, same as the Council Museum. I understand you know how easily they
can be circumvented.” Davison flashed an ironic smile.
wouldn’t say it was easy, exactly, but yes, I know how it can be done.” Raven’s
involvement in the theft of the Mariner’s Crown was a matter of public record;
no point in obfuscation.
brought a fairly graphic depiction of a ritualized sex act done in fire writing
on the dining room wall. At that point Ms. Love bought trained guard dogs from
a reputable kennel and installed security cameras. That brought a reprieve that
lasted through the solstice.”
took a sip of port. “A reprieve of incidents only, or did the letters stop as
letters continued, and became more graphic and disturbing. The author made it
clear that he resented the dogs, and some of the letters accused Miss Love of,
er, inappropriate behavior with canines.” Davison glanced down at his wine,
let the pause continue a moment, enjoying the man’s discomfiture even as anger
rose at the slander to the lady. “You said that the reprieve lasted through the
solstice. I take it the incidents picked up again?”
nodded. “Two days before Lughnasa, Miss Love woke to find the guard dogs dead
and the security cameras disabled. On the center of the dining room table her
stalker had left a red glass sculpture in the shape of a flame, everspelled to
glow like a light bulb, with a note that said “All is forgiven. I burn for
is forgiven?” Raven asked. “Doesn’t that imply some sort of a previous
shook his head. “Not necessarily. The connection could very well be entirely in
the stalker’s mind. He could be forgiving her for, in his twisted view, playing
hard to get, or for acquiring dogs to keep him out.”
blew out a long breath. He’d seen all manner of insanity in his years with
William, but this was a whole new kind of crazy.
that point, she hired bodyguards. She first called in an agency recommended by
the Mundane cops. Why they waited so long to bring in Guardians. . .” Davison
shook his head.
smiled despite himself, remembering Cass’s rants on the lack of cooperation
between Mundane police and Guardians, and between the local Guardians and GII.
September, Miss Love went on tour to Europe, very much looking forward to a
reprieve from the attentions of her rabid admirer.”
such luck?” Raven guessed.
shook his head grimly. “Labor Day, she came back to her hotel in London to find
a full wardrobe of maternity clothes arranged in her suite, with a note saying
that by that time next year, she would be pregnant with his child.”
in Sydney, her dressing room was decorated with bloody skeletons—“
Raven was aghast.
the plastic kind, like you would buy at a party store,” Davison amended
quickly. “Still, grim enough, especially accompanied by a note describing the
fate of her paramours if she didn’t cease, his words, ‘cheating’ on him.”
tasted bile in the back of his throat. For an innocent woman to be tormented
this way, her only ‘crime’ the beauty she brought into the world, was
unthinkable. Mentally going through the holidays in order, he asked “Yule?
the days between the two holidays. The security guards she hired to protect her
home were rendered unconscious—we’re still trying to figure out how, exactly. A
display was left on the makeup table in the dressing room that adjoins her
bedroom, a confused mish-mash of the two traditions, something like a crèche,
but with symbolic references to the Earth Mother birthing the Sun God." He
grimaced. “It seemed less a bid for the all-one-god traditions, more a muddle
of dubious theology, with a note that seemed to suggest that he saw himself as
the Sun God—son and consort and king.”
take it, not in the metaphorical sense of all-of-us-carry-divinity-within?”
looked at him in surprise. “You studied Craft lore?”
shrugged one shoulder. “ ‘Studied’ is probably too strong a term. But Mother
Crone has been a friend to me on occasion, and one picks up things.”
cocked his head slightly, as if trying to reconcile this new information with
his preconceptions. Gods, even William’s knowledge was broader than 101
variations on death magic.
Davison continued. “The letter was a frightening collection of delusion and
weird religious references. The gist of it seems to be that he considers
himself a god, or a demi-god. Something above mortal man, at any rate. And that
Ms. Love would be going against the divine plan if she refuses to—his words—mate
with him and bear his young.”
took a long swallow of his port. “And here I thought I was done with
swallowed, his expression sour. “It would be nice if William were the only
twisted bastard out to control and dominate through fear, but in my job we deal
with that kind every day. I don’t think William was necessarily even the
sickest, just the most dangerous.”
couldn’t dispute that; he’d seen enough in the case files GII sent him
discretely through Cassandra when they were particularly stuck. “From what you
have told me so far, the man’s magical strength may be only average or slightly
above average, although he does seem possessed of some very particular
knowledge regarding certain techniques.”
he could be holding back to keep us guessing,” Davison said.
cocked his head. “Why would he do that?”
shrugged. “He seems to be playing games, toying with us as well as with Ms.
Love. He’s sent us a few messages as well.”
a half-mask like the one from Phantom on my desk.”
shivered at the thought. “I don’t know if I could circumvent GII
security. What is this man?”
what we’d like you to help us find out.”
can I help you?”
I had a dim hope that the bastard’s MO might remind you of one of your former
associates that might have escaped William’s fall.”
shook his head. “Sorry to disappoint. Most of the dark mages I knew were far
more direct. William sometimes enjoyed convoluted schemes, but stalking really
isn’t his style.” In fact, stalking was one of the few crimes he felt fairly
certain William would draw the line at, but that wasn’t the sort of thing he
would mention to a Guardian.
I said, it was a small hope.” Davison flashed an ingratiating smile. “I was rather
more hoping that you might have a look at Miss Love’s security system to see if
you can figure out how he’s foiling it. See if you can help us figure out how
to stop him, or even better, catch him.”
inclined his head. It seemed like a small enough thing to do, to help someone
who had brought so much beauty into the world. It would be odd, working so
directly with Guardians, and yet oddly like the dreams of his youth, when he
wanted to be a Guardian.
then Davison leaned in, looking at him intently. “I’m curious, though. You were
reluctant to help until I mentioned Miss Love’s name. Is there a connection
there I should know about?”
a deep admiration for opera in general and Miss Love’s work in particular. I
saw her sing in La Boheme at the Portland Opera. She was a true virtuoso.”
had been the first event, other than Zack MacLean’s funeral, that had drawn him
so far out of the reclusive habits he had adopted since his pardon. And it had
been worth it.
see. And I understand that you are known for your innovative spellwork.”
slight bonhomie he had begun to feel fled. “Just what are you insinuating?”
that our stalker is an opera aficionado and clever in his magic.” Davison
flashed him a mock-innocent smile.
finished his port, feigning insouciance, though the words struck him through
like spell-lightning. “Much as I admire Miss Love, she is hardly my type.”
Davison gave a quick, mocking grin, as he swirled his wine. “Because some mages
go for Mundane women. They like the feeling of being more powerful.”
answered Davison grin with a slow, dark smile. “Is that why you chose your
slammed down his glass so hard that wine sloshed on the table. He half-stood,
flushing. “How dare you!”
maintained a relaxed façade, although he focused his will to strengthening his
shields. He wouldn’t start anything, but damned if he wouldn’t finish it.
Reckless, since there were many desperate to see his pardon revoked. His lawyer
would make a most eloquent case for self-defense, if only to have the
opportunity to strangle Raven himself.
dare I?" He lifted his chin. “How dare you drag a civilian out
under false pretenses in order to subject me to accusations with no foundations
whatsoever? If the fact that I am in a committed relationship with one of your
colleagues doesn’t weigh in your considerations, let me point out that, at the
time the stalking began, I was busy risking my life spying for the Council in
William’s sanctuary. And on the Spring Equinox, I couldn’t have possibly been
breaking in to Miss Love’s home, as I was engaged in a duel to the death with
the most powerful dark mage of our time. And then I was taken into custody for
should point out, since GII is clearly too dim to figure it out, that no true
aficionado of opera would ever mistake Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular fluff for
true opera, and so no true aficionado would try to impress a singer he was
courting by signing his letters ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ ” He raised one
eyebrow. "Since I understand from news articles on the opera scene that
Miss Love appeared in a commercial for Jaguar that appeared not long before the
stalking incidents began, I suggest that, instead of confining your investigation
to opera-goers, you expand it to anyone who had access to Mundane television
during the period that the commercial aired.”
stood then, took out his wallet, and threw down enough bills to cover both his
port and Davison’s wine, plus a generous tip. If Davison insisted on paying for
his own check, then the waiter would just get an even larger tip. He deserved
it, anyway, for having to put up with a Guardian and a former dark mage causing
a scene in his section.
you have any further questions for me, you can channel them through my lawyer.”
He dropped the business card of Alexander Chen, attorney at law, in Davison’s
lap and stalked for the door, pulling on his coat as he went.
wait, please!” Davison rose to his feet but had the good sense not to attempt
to follow. “For Ms. Love’s sake—”
paused for a moment, then kept walking.
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